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Museum Visitor Realizes Where Long-Lost Painting Is

Jacob Lawrence panel been hanging in her neighbor's living room for 60 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2020 8:11 AM CDT
Updated Oct 25, 2020 10:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jacob Lawrence's renowned 1950s series of paintings "Struggle: From the History of the American People" arrived at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art in August missing five of its 30 panels. It will leave next month missing only four. A visitor to the museum realized that a painting she had seen in her neighbors' apartment looked like it belonged in the collection and persuaded the neighbors to contact the Met, the New York Times reports. The museum confirmed that Panel 16, which depicts Shay's Rebellion in Massachusetts, had been hanging in an Upper West Side apartment on the other side of Central Park for the last 60 years. It was one of two missing panels for which no photographic record existed.

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One of the painting's owners tells the Times that she bought the painting by the celebrated Black artist for a "very modest sum" at a Christmas charity auction in 1960. She says that when her friend told her there was a "blank spot on the wall" at the Met where her painting belonged, she felt she "owed it both to the artist and the Met to allow them to show the painting." The owners have agreed to loan the artwork to the exhibition until its nationwide tour finishes in December next year, reports CBS New York. It will go on display at the Met Thursday. "Struggle" was the only one of Lawrence's 10 series to be broken up by a private collector and resold. Curators who spent years trying to get the collection back together say surfacing the missing panels was exactly what they hoped the exhibition would achieve. (Read more Metropolitan Museum of Art stories.)

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